It was early March, and I was driving home to Eastern Pennsylvania from Southern Illinois via I-70 when I saw a huge sign just East of Wheeling Pennsylvania that said “Cabela’s.” I’d heard about Cabela’s from my bubba friends who highly recommended it, but I had never been in one of their stores. I decided to take a break from my driving and check it out.
If you have been in a Cabela’s, you were either there out of curiosity like I was, you are an avid hunter, like to fish, or just like to sleep on the ground a lot. If you have not visited one of their stores, I highly recommend it. There are 16 retail stores in the country at this point in time. Two of them are in Nebraska, two in Minnesota, and two in Texas. The others are scattered around in the country in various “Sportsmen” locations.
My first impression was, “Holy shit this is a huge store!” My second impression was that a NASCAR event had just let out and everyone had stopped here before going home. My third impression was, “This is definitely a Red state.”
The most impressive part of the store, if you can overlook a thousand redneck shoppers (try to avoid weekends) was the dead animal exhibition. I have never seen such an impressive collection of stuffed and mounted game in my life. I’m not talking about the hundred or so deer and elk heads mounted on all the walls. I’m talking about several simulated habitats where animals were posed in a kind of inanimate zoos. They had everything from a stuffed elephant on down to stuffed prairie dogs. I didn’t expect to see African game, but the collection from there was impressive. I liked the Rhino a lot. Also the polar bear and the brown bear, but then I’m easily impressed by animals bigger than I am.
There is a two-story high mountain where various species of animals such as mountain goats, mountain sheep, mountain lions, lynx, and others were poised in very elaborately prepared surroundings. I did note that most of the larger animals, lions and bears in particular, were mounted in threatening poses with teeth bared. Perhaps this was to give prospective hunters more reason to want to shoot them. They also had a very nice aquarium where one could watch a large assortment of freshwater game fish swimming by the large glass windows.
There was a big sign in front of the mountain that dedicated it to sportsman everywhere who, through their licensing fees and other forms of revenue, had enabled the comeback of many species of wild life from dangerously low numbers in the early 1920s. What the sign did not mention was that it was the unrestrained hunting of these species by 'sportsmen' prior to the 1920’s which had caused their near extinction, so the real credit goes not to sportsmen, but to the government that started regulating sportsmen in order to prevent the extinction of these species.
I spent about an hour in the store and may return one day with my camera, for it was an impressive display of dead animals – if you can call that impressive. If there is an award for how best to display dead animals, Cabela’s should win it hands down – or should that be ‘feet up?’
The experience did reinforce what I have come to believe over a lifetime of observation. And that is that our human race really hasn’t evolved much in the way of behavior towards other life forms – or even towards one another. If all of the stuffed species at Cabela’s were humans of various races, the place would be labeled a monument to human terrorism and shunned by all. But since the dead are other life forms, it is admired. And I don’t like the implications of that for our future.